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Wisconsin Watch partners with Gigafact to produce fact briefs — bite-sized fact checks of trending claims. Read our methodology to learn how we check claims.


One African-American person, Louis Butler Jr., has served as a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice since Wisconsin became a state in 1848. However, he was never elected to the seat. Butler, then a Milwaukee County judge, was appointed to the high court in 2004 by Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle to fill a vacancy. Butler was defeated by Michael Gableman in the 2008 election for a 10-year term. All seven current justices are white.

An election for one seat will be held in 2023. One of the four candidates in the Feb. 21 primary, Dane County Judge Everett Mitchell, is Black. The two candidates with the most votes will compete in the spring election on April 4.

About 87% of Wisconsin’s population identifies as while; about 7% identify as Black or African-American.

Twenty-eight states have no Black Supreme Court justices, New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice reported in May.

This Fact Brief is responsive to conversations such as this one.


Wisconsin Courts: Portraits of Justice | The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s First 150 Years

Wisconsin Courts: Wisconsin Court System

Wisconsin Courts: Justice Louis J. Butler, Jr.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: The 2023 Wisconsin Supreme Court race will decide control of the bench. Here’s a closer look at the four candidates.

State of Wisconsin: Wisconsin Elections Commission

Wisconsin Law Journal – WI Legal News & Resources: Butler gets the nod

Brennan Center for Justice: State Supreme Court Diversity — May 2022 Update

Tom Kertscher joined as a Wisconsin Watch fact checker in January 2023 and contributes to our collaboration with the The Gigafact Project to fight misinformation online. Kertscher is a former longtime newspaper reporter, including at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who has worked as a self-employed journalist since 2019. His gigs include contributing writer for PolitiFact and sports freelancer for The Associated Press.